The Car-Free Society

Basic design car-free area
  1. What is wrong with our transport system?
  2. Research data from carfree-city design.
  3. Environmental Noise Problems
  4. Sites & News on carfree cities, urban transport & more

These following statements are based on 20 years of car-free life, and some struggle against the car-culture. I can recommend a car-free life to anyone: life flows on at a much more steady pace, the use of the bicycle under all weather conditions is in the long run a benefit to health, and normally just fun. I haven't the impression that I missed something compared to my car-loving compatriots. I have a normal social life, visit theaters and cinema's and go everywhere I want to.
I propose to strive for a (near) car-free society, that will solve its transportation problems in a rational, efficient way. I give, just to order ones thoughts, the motives why in reality cars are not the economic bonus that we are made to believe it is, but lead to a poorer, less social society then could have been.

What is wrong with our transport system?

To me it seems almost silly to list everthing that is wrong with the present situation. For many people however the truth is not so obvious. What makes me sad is that so much ingenuity is wasted, which should instead be use to make this world into the paradise it should be.

  1. Hopelessly inefficient
  2. Cost
  3. Burden on Society
  4. Such a waste!
  5. On freedom
  6. The common's men desire
  7. Now what?

Hopelessly inefficient:

- even if the present level of transport would a beneficial effect on society (which I doubt), then one wouldn't dream of giving each participant his own transporter, however environmentally clean each one would be. The simple reason is that 95% of the time these costly, space consuming vehicles stay idle , just doing nothing. The Dutch railways possess just 2.500 passenger waggons, but transport nearly 14 billion passenger kilometers with them. The car-system needs 6.000.000 (2000 times more) units to transport only 5 times as much. Even if you take into account that trainwagons are 5 times longer, that still is 400-fold efficiency gain.

- when these vehicles move, they use per passenger large amounts of energy to move at incredibly low speeds. Did you know that an airplane passenger of an airbus consumes less? Moving at the nearly the speed of sound? A normal train consumes 4 times less per passenger, a high speed train the same, but at 300 km/hr

- Where efficiency is consired, no cars are used, but systems like conveyor belts, bicycles, elevators, people movers, light railway etc.

- Driving a car is about the most silly way to spend your time when moving from A to B. Strapped in safety belts, usually intelligent people are wasting their time in an activity a robot should be doing. Sure, it get you somewhere somewhat earlier, but all the time is essentially wasted.



- most car-owners greatly underestimate how much they spend really on their vehicles. Dutch data by the Consumer Association show every time again that the cheapest cars cost around Hfl 600 ($400) per month. A middle class car Hfl 1000 a month. Usually it will cost over Hfl 0,50 per kilometer, and that doesnot even cover the full cost.

- Parking space for 6 million cars in the Netherlands has a counter value of billions of guilders, which often is not paid for.


Burden on Society

- It is my believe that the indiscriminate use of motorcars cut profoundly in the fabric of society. One proof is the sharp decrase in the time children spend outside their homes since cars became wide spread. This luckily is higher in low-traffic areas. Evidently parents were forced to keep their children inside with their electronic babysits, but in more favorable circumstances, are permitted to play outside like they used to for millennia.

- noise and particulates in the air create an enormous problem for general health. Half of the noise problems and a large part of the lack in air-quality can be ascribed to the car-system.

- a substantial part of the health care goes in caring for the crippled in car-accidents.


Such a waste!

- Half of the trips have no apparent use. They take the place of the old fashioned stroll or visit in the neighborhood.

- Society pays dearly for this error. Billions are wasted on a total kludge of a transport system, forced upon us by a powerful industrial complex.

- Common knowledge will have that the motorcar brought prosperity. Instead, it is like the common idea that antibiotics saved the world from thyphus. Statistics show that the decline in thyphus cases was well before the first effective antibiotics (sulfamides) came in use. It is far more plausible that after the initial gain in transport efficiency, mass transport by motorcar is a side effect of economic growth, gobbling up valuable resources, without giving back reasonablelongterm benefits. Unfortunately, economy is an art in which any increase is in misery will lead to an increase of the economic indicators. So more car accidents will lead to more well-being? This only proves that it is pretty easy to make the public believe just about anything.


On freedom

- The sense of freedom that your car is said to give you is false. It is the same falsehood that is used by tobacco-companies when they make the absurd connection between a healthy, sporting life full of excitement and their stinking products.

Freedom of going wherever you want to has little to do with cars. On the contrary, all this carefully registered vehicles are an excellent means to get detailed information on their owners. If you want to go about in freedom, you had better go walking.


but people want to drive, you can't take their toys away

- Hutu's want to exterminate Tutsi's, Servs the Moslims (and this all vice versa). Although these are real feelings, that doesn't mean it is rational behaviour or even beneficial for the society in the long run. So what "people"`think (or what they have been made to believe) is not necessarily good. Carefull education, explaining and be sure that the right information is spread. Truth will win from even the best hate-campaign.


Now what?

Because society slowly has become completely car-centered, except for some old inner cities which have been saved (usually in a savage struggle between the inhabitants and local authorities)), it has become difficult to imagine the way back.

A very tiny step in this direction can be made by the car-free-neighborhood . This idea was coined already in the early 70 ties, and studied afterwards by the Ministry of Environment. Again this study demonstrates the savings that can be made if transport in a modern living area is organized in a rational way.

Off course it is difficult to inverse half a century of indoctrination, but as it has to end anyway sooner or later, it is sensible to start at an early stage to adapt structures and a way of thinking which is directed to a society that doesn't have to end with a sudden crash.